Tax deductions for volunteer work

Written by erica leigh
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Tax deductions for volunteer work
Unreimbursed volunteer expenses for equipment or materials may be deductible. (AE Pictures Inc./Lifesize/Getty Images)

In order to deduct expenses for volunteer work, you must itemise your deductions on Form 1040 with Schedule A. Filers of 1040A and 1040EZ forms may not itemise deductions. You will not necessarily get a larger tax refund by choosing to itemise deductions or deducting volunteer work expenses, so consider your personal tax situation carefully.

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Potential

You may deduct your travel expenses to and from the volunteer location, as well as any transportation expenses incurred during the volunteer work. You may only deduct travel expenses and other volunteer expenses if you are not reimbursed for them. As of 2010, you may deduct either 14 cents per mile of travel or the actual cost of travel, if you kept adequate records to prove your travel. You can also deduct parking fees or road tolls.

Expenses

If you buy supplies for a volunteer project for which you are not reimbursed, you may deduct the expenses; for example, the unreimbursed purchase of shovels and gloves for a habitat restoration project. If your volunteer work requires you to wear a uniform that is not appropriate for everyday use, you may deduct the cost and cleaning fees for the uniform. However, you may not deduct personal expenses such as the cost of meals incurred during volunteering, except if you incur meal expenses as part of an overnight trip and you are not reimbursed. Certain unreimbursed expenses you incur as a foster parent may also be deductible, if you volunteer to foster a child to help the foster agency and not because you want to adopt the child.

Considerations

You may not deduct the value of any income you lost by volunteering instead of working. Similarly, you can't deduct the value of your services to the organisation. For example, if the organisation for which you volunteer also pays a staff member £6 per hour to do similar work to yours, you cannot deduct an hourly amount on your taxes.

Travel

The IRS states that if you are selected by a charitable organisation as its official representative to a conference, you may deduct unreimbursed expenses for any overnight trip, including travel, lodging and meals. If you attend, but not as an official representative, you may only deduct expenses directly connected with any volunteer services or presentations you give. Overnight trip expenses are deductible if you take the trip to perform volunteer services and the trip does not have any significant leisure or recreational activity. For example, if you are a youth group leader and responsible for supervising youth throughout a camping weekend, you can usually deduct expenses. If you participate in a wildlife count for eight hours a day and have free time otherwise, your expenses are not deductible. If you receive a per diem to cover volunteer expenses, you may only deduct reasonable and necessary travel expenses exceeding the per diem.

Expert Insight

Unless your total itemised deductions exceed your standard deduction, you will not save money on your taxes by itemising deductions and including your volunteer expenses. As of the 2009 tax year, the standard deduction for a single person is £3,705, the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly or qualified widowers is £7,410 and the deduction for heads of household is £5,427. Standard deductions may be higher if you have certain expenses, are over 65 or are blind.

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